Do you know what is appropriate? Now’s the time to get clear on work Christmas party etiquette.

Work Christmas Party Conduct_Staff at Christmas Party_WCA Solutions

With the festive season just around the corner, anticipation and excitement surrounding your workplace’s end of year celebrations is building. After a tumultuous year, these celebrations are an opportunity for employees to unwind, re-establish team morale and celebrate the years work. However, the activities and behaviours often involved with such celebrations can create a wave of issues that have potential to cause long-lasting harm to your company. WCA Solutions has identified potential challenges employers should be aware of before the festivities commence.  

Social Media

Ensure appropriate use of social media at your work Christmas party

While social media is a good mechanism for capturing memorable moments, it also means any negative portrayals of your company will be shared with the public and carry negative consequences for your company’s reputation. Internally, any inappropriate or offensive social media posts may be seen as bullying or harassment and create internal conflict amongst employees. This can deteriorate relationships to the detriment of your company’s productivity. It is recommended companies conduct a review of their social media policy and procedure and communicate expectations to all employees before the event.

Code of Conduct

Remind employees of what is appropriate conduct at work functions

Once festivities commence, employees should be reminded their conduct must be appropriate and reflect the company’s Code of Conduct at work functions. For instance, a gift or comment may be well-intended however the recipient may not feel the same. It is recommended you communicate any gifts should be workplace appropriate and comments should remain professional and respectful. To enable such, companies should review their professional conduct policies and procedures and communicate them to all employees before the event. This ensures employees will, at least, have an awareness of the actions that may be taken against them if they are found to be in breach of their contractual obligations.  

Alcohol

Maintain a duty of care during work Christmas parties

No matter how you decide to celebrate, as an employer your duty of care towards your employees remains. If you intend on serving alcohol, it is recommended you take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of your employees by holding the event at a safe venue, providing taxi vouchers for safe travel to and from the venue, emphasising ‘the excessive consumption of alcohol is prohibited at all times’ and reminding employees about appropriate work function conduct. During the event, you have the right to require the venue to refuse service of alcohol to any employee. You may also choose to nominate sober contact persons to supervise employees and manage any issues that arise. By taking these key actions, you are working towards fulfilling your duty of care obligations and allowing employees to safely enjoy themselves.  

If you require any assistance reviewing your policies and procedures or clarifying your obligations as an employer, please do not hesitate to contact WCA Solutions.  

More employees eligible for JobKeeper but you must act by 31 August 2020.

There have been many updates to the JobKeeper program since inception, including the announcement of JobKeeper 2.0.

A recent change that may benefit your business is the change to employee eligibility dates.  Employees that previously failed the JobKeeper eligibility test because they were not employed on 1 March 2020, may now be eligible for payments from 3 August 2020 if they were employed by 1 July 2020.  

Below we outline these changes and how they may apply to your business.

Program Dates

JobKeeper 1.0 wage subsidy ends 27 September 2020
JobKeeper 2.0 wage subsidy extended to 28 March 2021

Employee Eligibility

New eligibility date

Businesses may now be eligible to claim for employees who started from 1 July (not just from 1 March). For the fortnights commencing on 3 August and 17 August, employers have until 31 August to meet the wage condition for all new eligible employees under the 1 July eligibility test.

20+ work hours eligibility test (look-back approach)

  • From 28 September, eligibility for “full rate” (Tier 1) JobKeeper depends on employee working 20 hours or more (on average) in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March or 1 July.
  • There is ATO discretion to apply an alternative test if employee’s hours were not usual during the February or June reference period.
  • Employer must nominate which payment rate is being claimed for each employee.

Casuals

If a casual employee was not an eligible employee prior to 3 August, you can use the 1 July test to reassess that employee’s eligibility. The test requires that the employee be employed on a regular and systematic basis for the period 2 July 2019 to 1 July 2020.

Apprentices and trainees in place on 1 July 2020

Wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice or trainee’s wages paid until 31 March 2021. In addition to the existing support for small businesses, medium-sized businesses employing 199 people or fewer, will now be eligible for the subsidy for wages paid from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Sole trader and eligible business participants

JobKeeper eligibility continues for sole traders, a partner in a partnership, a beneficiary of a trust, a shareholder or Director of a company.  The 20+ hour test also applies to sole traders and eligible business participants from 28 September 2020, calculated by reference to time spent “actively engaged in the business”.

Turnover Decline Test

JobKeeper 1.0JobKeeper 2.0
30 March 2021 –
27 September 2020
28 September 2020 –
2 January 2021
4 January 2021-
28 March 2021
30% decline in projected GST turnover (50% for businesses with turnover of more than $1 billion) No change to decline percentages (30%, 50%, 15%) No change to decline percentages (30%, 50%, 15%)
15% decline if a registered charityMeasuring decline using actual GST turnover in the September 2020 quarter, relative to comparable 2019 periodMeasuring decline using actual GST turnover in the December 2020 quarter, relative to comparable 2019 period

Payment Amounts

JobKeeper 1.0JobKeeper 2.0
30 March 2021 –
27 September 2020
28 September 2020 –
2 January 2021
4 January 2021-
28 March 2021
$1,500 per fortnight for all eligible employees. $1,200 per fortnight for work of 20+ hours per week$1,000 per fortnight for work of 20+ hours per week
$750 per fortnight for work of < 20 hours per week$650 per fortnight for work of < 20 hours per week

For more detailed information refer to Australian Taxation Office advice for Employers at https://www.ato.gov.au/General/JobKeeper-Payment/Employers/

Are you across changes to personal and carers leave?

In the months following the Mondelez v AMWU case, which resulted in significant changes to personal and carer’s leave, many businesses have been left feeling confused and uncertain about how personal and carer’s leave is calculated.

Fundamentally, the changes handed down in late August 2019 by The Federal Court of Australia see full-time and part-time employees expressly accruing leave in working days.  

The Fair Work Act states that an employee is entitled to 10 days of personal and carer’s leave for each year of service with the employer. However, practically many businesses accrue personal and carer’s leave in hours i.e. 76 hours per annum for full-time employees working 38 hours per week, with part-time employees receiving the same entitlement on a pro-rata basis, based on hours worked.

The interpretation of the ruling by the Fair Work Commission indicates the changes to personal and carer’s leave do not significantly affect full-time employees working a standard working week. However, if we look at employees working different part-time or non-standard working arrangements, we can start to see how the recent ruling may be interpreted to provide quite different entitlements for these employees.

Practical examples

Ben, Grace, April and John all work for ABC Accounting & Finance who pride themselves on being a flexible employer:

  • Ben requested flexibility to do school pick up and drop off and therefore, works 5-hours a day, Monday to Friday;
  • Grace is a junior employee who works 7.6 hours, 4 days a week while she finishes her post-graduate degree;
  • April is an Account Manager working with a large number of overseas clients and works a compressed workweek of 9.5 hours a day over 4 days so that she can do early and late meetings; and
  • John, a Senior Accountant, works a standard workweek.

As you can see from the comparison of calculation methods above, the changes introduced by The Federal Court favour those who work long hours over fewer days. Based on the new calculation method in some cases part-time employees accrue less hours of personal and carer’s leave.

Employee Based on hours worked (old method) Based on 10 working days (new method)
Ben 10 days based on 25 hrs/wk (50 hrs) 10 days of 5 hrs (50 hrs)
Grace 10 days based on 30.4 hrs/wk  (60.8 hrs) 10 days of 7.6 hrs  (76 hrs)
April 10 days for a full-time employee working 38 hrs/wk (76 hrs) 10 days of 9.5 hrs (95 hrs)
John 10 days for a full-time employee working 38 hrs/ wk (76 hrs) 10 days of 7.6 hours (76 hrs)

The Federal Court stated the intention of the ruling was to guarantee all employees are provided with an equal number of days off. However, this has come at a significant cost, with the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter estimating that the additional cost to businesses could be up to $2 billion per year.  

It should be further noted that if this interpretation is upheld, many businesses will face additional upheaval and potential expense in changing payroll systems to accrue hours rather than days.

What is next?

On Monday 16 September 2019, the Morrison Government announced it would seek to appeal the recent Federal Court decision and address the inequities created from this change.  

Mondelez has also announced it intends to lodge their own appeal.

Contact WCA- People & Culture Solutions if you require assistance with Human Resources and Industrial Relations on (08) 9383 3293 or email admin@wcasolutions.com

Australian Industrial Relations legislation has provided casual employees with a 25% casual loading  to compensate for paid sick and annual leave, redundancy and other entitlements, but this has now been challenged by an unprecedented Federal Court decision, followed by updates to all Modern Awards.

In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene the court clarified there was no uncertainty or irregularity in the patterns of work Mr Skene was performing, as he had received a roster that outlined his next 52 weeks’ worth of work. As a result Mr Skene was awarded all benefits a permanent employee would receive, due to the regular nature of his work and predictable work hours.

With approximately 25% of Australia’s workforce comprising of casual employees and the outcome of this case in the forefront of many employer’s minds, questions begin to arise around the validity of each casual’s employment and the additional entitlements they may be due.

Who is a “valid” casual?

Unfortunately, despite the legislation surrounding an employment relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a casual employee.

The Fair Work Commission defines a casual employee as “not having a firm commitment in advance from an employer about how long they will be employed for, or the days (or hours) they will work”.  However, industry definitions of casual employment have morphed from the original intent of a casual employee into something significantly different. If we were to take a cross-section across all industries, it would not come as a surprise to find casual employees working the equivalent of full-time hours with the expectation their employment will continue for the foreseeable future.

Though specific details need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, generally, casual employees:

  • Have no guaranteed hours of work;
  • Usually work irregular hours;
  • Aren’t entitled to paid sick or annual leave; and
  • Can end employment without notice, unless required by a registered agreement, Award or employment contract.

What does this mean for your business?

From 1 October 2018, all Modern Awards contain a clause for casual conversion which outlines the process casual employees may follow to convert their employment to full or part-time.

Whilst wording in each Modern Awards may differ, the basis for converting from casual to full or part-time employment remains the same:

The Casual employee must have

  • been employed for a period of 12 months;
  • worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis of the 12-month period;
  • a pattern of hours expected to continue into the future with no significant changes; and
  • requested conversion to full-time or part-time employment in writing.

While the introduction of casual conversion clauses in all Modern Awards will impact every organisation that currently employs or is considering hiring casual employee/s, specific industries such as retail or hospitality, who typically have higher proportion of casual employees will be most affected.

What action must you take?

As an employer you must:

  1. Provide all casual employees with a copy of the relevant clause from the applicable Award within the first twelve months of commencing employment.
  2. Recognise that you cannot terminate and re-engage an employee to avoid their conversion request, nor can you simply refer the request either.

You may however, refuse the request on reasonable grounds if the conversion would result in significant adjustment to the employee’s current hours of work, or if it is reasonably foreseeable that the employee’s current position will cease to exist within the next 12 months.

Now, more than ever, organisations who hire casual employees will need to consider the implications upon their business operations and implement sound workforce planning to determine irregular and ongoing staffing requirements.

In September Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged the Australian Government will make it a priority to encourage migrants to move to smaller capital centres – including Perth – and into regional and rural Australia.

For employers, the new year presents opportunities to leverage changes in legislation and ensure compliance around sponsored visas and recruitment of people from overseas.

The Australian Government has made significant changes to a range of visas including the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa (previously known as the 457 visa) and has introduced high thresholds for employer sponsored permanent visas, such as the employer nomination scheme – sub class 186.

A Global Talent Scheme has also been introduced as a 12-month trial, allowing businesses operating within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry to identify and attract top talent with unique skills to build local capability and innovation.

The purpose behind these changes is largely driven by economic policy – to ensure skilled migrants meet the needs of Australian businesses without affecting or displacing Australian workers.

While accredited Migration Agents specialise in employer-sponsored visas, it is important to remain aware of changes and what this means for your business. This is where your HR team can add value.

International “People” Investments

Investing in migrant workers can be beneficial and/crucial in industries with very specific skillsets and unique roles – but if not executed correctly international recruitment can be a time consuming and expensive exercise. Here are three hot tips for ensuring a positive return on your investment:

1)     Think beyond today – Where will you be six months or one year from now?

As with any recruitment process, have a clear understanding of your expectations from the outset. Take time to understand the business needs now, and the future direction. Your HR expert will assist your business navigate through both the visa requirements and best-practice recruitment process by taking a holistic view of how international recruitment will give your company a competitive edge and fill skills gap/s.

2)     Research – Identify and understand your target market

Like any investment, it is important to undertake research beforehand to ensure you engage the best person for the position. Understanding the overseas target market is critical in order to enable an effective recruitment and selection process. What is attractive to someone based in North America may be quite different to someone in South-East Asia.  Adjust your recruitment ‘pitch’ to attract the right candidates.

3)     Technology – connecting with your candidates

Technology is integral in the recruitment of international employees and being innovative with the use of technology will assist in ensuring the person you are interviewing is in fact the best person for the job. Consider your existing recruitment and selection process and ensure you are taking advantage of available technology to review samples of work or conduct face to face interviews.

Time and costs involved

The Department of Immigration increased visa application fees to from 1 July 2018 and there are also other associated costs involved in recruitment including travel and training levies.

It is also important to remember international recruitment is a longer and more involved process. You may have identified the perfect person to fit the role and your current and future needs AND be willing to invest in sponsorship, BUT there are no guarantees.

Assuming your business is already an accredited employer sponsor, processing times for visas vary significantly, 35 days for TSSand up to 14 months for ENS from the time of submitting an application. Consult your HR team for they will be able to help you plan and set a predicted time frame from start to finish and identify key milestones along the way.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

By Mindy Lee (first published in Business News, February 2019)

Mindy

It’s the three words that all companies hear, yet most find hard to actively respond to: Corporate Social Responsibility.

So, what actually is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how can you, as a manager and leader, implement initiatives that support the CSR motion within your company?

A quick Google search can easily tell you the dictionary definition of Corporate Social Responsibility; “when corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications”. However, when you think about it more closely it is so much more than that; it’s a culture embedded in your business.

Organisations such as Perth-based commercial fishing company, Austral Fisheries, have gone to great lengths in their commitment to CSR, becoming the first carbon neutral seafood business in the world – offsetting an estimated 27,422 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Austral Fisheries Chief Executive Officer, David Carter, explained that the company identified the need to reduce and offset its’ carbon emissions to ensure the health of our oceans, which is also fundamental to their business. Complementing their decision to offset carbon dioxide emissions Austral Fisheries had previously achieved and continues to uphold, sustainable and well-managed certification for their four major Australian fisheries including Mackerel Icefish, Patagonian Toothfish and Prawns.

Austral Fisheries provides an inspiring example of how a large well managed organisation can introduce and enact CSR initiatives, without committing significant financial and/ or other resources.

Taking an environmental stance might arguably be one of the easiest (and most cost effective ways) to increase your Corporate Social Responsibility, with easy to implement and generally low cost initiatives available. Below are just a few simple environmentally conscious ideas to get your Company’s CSR inspiration flowing!

  1. Reduce Single Use Coffee Cups

On average, 1 billion single use coffee cups are used in Australia every year, which cannot be recycled – that’s over 50,000 cups being used every 30 minutes.

If your employees have a favourite local coffee shop, consider providing each of your employees with a reusable cup and approach the coffee shop to ask if discounts are provided for a reusable cup.

  1. Encourage Public Transport

Cars and light vehicles generate around 10 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions with driving just 15km in your round trip to work each day generating around one tonne of greenhouse gases per year. Catching public transport each day wouldn’t only see a reduction in the total emissions being generated, but it would also save each employee approximately $5500 a year on everyday travel expenses. Consider providing your employees with public transport passes.

  1. Minimising Printing

On average, it takes one tree to create 4000 pages of paper, as we know this contributes to a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the ecosystem, and an increase in greenhouse gases from the manufacturing and transportation needed to turn the tree into the ream of paper sitting next to your printer. So don’t print that document when there are further changes to be made and check in with clients if they would like a printed version of the report – they may find it easier to file an electronic version.

…and for the larger end of town

  1. Become carbon neutral certified

Gaining certification for becoming carbon neutral will see you join 46 other like-minded, Australian owned, organisations and help to increase your CSR presence, all while demonstrating a commitment to the environment and helping to make tomorrow greener.

  1. Utilise solar power

Utilising solar power won’t just help establish a green reputation for your company; it will help you save on overheads and has the potential to generate income for the business if your energy consumption is less than that used in your production.

As a final note… The benefits of your environmental CSR initiatives are unlikely to be seen immediately, however, from little things big things grow. Making a start, no matter how big or small will not only see you commence your CSR impact but will also see flow on benefits such as improving your company reputation, a positive impact upon employee attraction and retention, and potentially a reduction in overhead costs. So really a win-win-win result.

WCA – People & Culture Solutions is proud to support Austral Fisheries.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com